By Alanna O’Rourke and Richard Zarrilli | firstname.lastname@example.org
Planes streak across the Florida skies every day, leaving cloudy exhaust trails in their wake.
They’re called contrails and they form “when water vapor condenses and freezes around small particles that exist in aircraft exhaust,” according to the National Aeronautics and Space Administration.
Contrails have been around for a long time. They were first observed in the 1920s, NASA says.
Some people fear that contrails are actually “chemtrails,” harmful chemicals released into the upper atmosphere as part of some secret government spraying program, according to Mick West, creator of a website called Contrail Science.
West, a retired video game programmer, doesn’t believe there is a mysterious spraying program.
He said in an interview that he started Contrail Science eight years ago after reading a questionable article about chemtrails on Wikipedia. He decided to gather factual information about contrails and debunk theories about chemtrails.
Despite his efforts, tales of chemtrails persist on websites and social media sites.
“You’re never going to stop it forever,” West said. “The best you can do is slow the tide,” said West, who also runs Metabunk, a site “dedicated to the art and pastime of honest, polite, scientific investigating and debunking.”
Believers in the hazards of chemtrails say that U.S. government agencies spray chemical or biological agents in the air at high altitudes. The sprays, they contend, leave pollutants in the soil, water and air, jeopardizing all forms of life.
Ruby Studivant, a student at Flagler College, is among the believers.
“They’re not broadcasting that they are spraying chemicals in the sky and expect us to not notice,” she said.
If the government is spraying chemicals into the air, people deserve to know, she said.
“It makes me think that they’re spraying poison that is hurting the environment. I think over 10 years its gradually going to affect our lives. I think that we’re the generation that’s going to stop them.”
Public awareness is key, she said.
“I actually found out about chemtrails on social media. I feel like the more people you tell then the greater change we can make. I would love for this to all just be a big misunderstanding. Until then I’ll push for the truth. We have a voice. We’re going to use it. We’re going to make a change.”
Believers in chemtrails also say that the pollutants seen floating in the air eventually fall to the ground, where they pose a potential danger to crops.
“Well, any kind of hard metal buildup would be probably catastrophic,” said Devin Mooneyhan, a farmer in St. Johns County. “Your pH levels are going to change with the metals, too. Any kind of drastic change one way or the other in the pH is going to do all kinds of terrible things. Everything is just so sensitive on that end whether it’s the air, the water, the bugs, the nutrients, the pH, everything.”
If chemtrails are harming the environment, “I’d be upset.”
“It makes me mad as a personal human,” he said.
A petition posted on We the People asks the Obama administration to “immediately stop the aerosol spraying of our nation’s skies.”
The petition said such spraying “is the deliberate polluting of our atmosphere and is therefore a crime against humanity and all living life on this planet.”
The petition drew 8,574 signatures, well below the 100,000 required for a White House response.
Correction: An earlier version of this story mistakenly reported that Mick West, who runs the site Contrail Science, posted the White House petition. West’s site is aimed at debunking theories about chemtrails, not promoting them.